Noel Coward's early life is basis for Venom
Friday 23 June 1995
Playwright Phil Willmott is unaccustomed to being placed alongside "dear Jane", yet in his latest play Venom (below right), he too has spurned creating a sympathetic leading character. "I wanted to create a really good stage villain. Audiences love them." He should know. A couple of year ago he re-worked Othello from a new perspective, renaming it Iago. "Villains need ambition, sex and wit. I tried to find a contemporary character to work from but we don't have villains now, we have monsters."
Eventually, he hit upon the idea of using the early life of Noel Coward as the skeleton of the piece while creating a character of his own. Venom tells the tale of Clive Gosling who, like Coward, trades on talent, wit and personal magnetism. Gosling is also homosexual, so is this a thinly- disguised attack on Coward and his closeted life? After all, a script reader at the Royal Court sent the script back saying that the writer was deeply homophobic. Willmott finds the idea very funny. "There is enormous pressure to write "good" gay characters. Villains are very rare. Black theatre has managed it in the last few years but we haven't. You have responsibilities as a writer though and I've written loads of nice, fluffy gay characters. You know the type: caring, social working, Judy Garland- listening gay men. It's a relief to be able to move right away from that. I think the character is compelling. You may not like him but the play certainly wouldn't induce an audience to dislike all gays. It's not my intention to do a Coward-bashing, I'm a huge fan. Venom is a love letter, but it's written in poison."
`Venom' previews at the Drill Hall, WC1 (0171 -637 8270) from tonight and opens on Tuesday.
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 4 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 5 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview is finally released after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food